After a season in which many school cricket matches were lost to the weather, it seemed strangely appropriate that the Berkshire cup final was played this afternoon on a beautiful sunny afternoon on Dutchmans 1. There are few better places to spend a few hours in late June and after a disappointing batting performance yesterday at Harrow, the Eton boys had the chance today to show that they could construct the partnerships necessary to post a winning total. We were fortunate to have two excellent umpires, a virgin strip on which to bat and in spite of losing the toss, the chance to bat first seemed to offer us a big advantage.
Spectators on the boundary might have felt this early advantage had been lost when the Eton team lost two wickets in the first three overs. Ed Doughty was caught off a leading edge playing round a low full toss and when Matt Pein, the player with the two highest individual scores of the season holed out to mid off with his second ball, a careful approach was needed in the next few overs to stop the early momentum Bradfield had built up. Sam Dawson was batting sensibly at one end until a straight ball from the impressive Brabham skittled through his defences. 23 for 3 was not the start we had wanted. Charlie Lyons was batting well, hitting the ball cleanly much of the time especially to mid on and midwicket, but an unfortunate mix up led to him being run out for the second time in two days. There then followed three impressive partnerships. Harry Thistlethwayte’s batting has improved considerably in recent weeks and from the start of his innings today he looked focused and determined to bat for a long time. Freddie Christian had joined him and they batted well together up to the drinks break at 19 overs. Thistlethwayte was playing his square cut and late cut to any short balls he received and Christian can play exquisite shots when the ball is over pitched and he is given any width outside off stump. Christian’s first 11 balls had been watchfully played for no runs but he was just starting to play his more customary attacking game at the drinks interval. I knew that this break in his concentration was going to pose Freddie a problem and it wasn’t a surprise to see him fall soon after play resumed. By then though he had scored an important 20 runs at a run a ball including three fours and one six. His partnership of 44 runs with Thistlethwayte had almost doubled the score to 93 for 5 but in spite of the wicket, the momentum had turned and the Eton batsmen now started to look more comfortable at the crease.
Josh Britton in only his second start for T1 joined Thistlethwayte and between them they added 45 excellent runs in just 6.3 overs. Both boys were hitting boundaries when offered loose bowling by the Bradfield slower bowlers and Britton was disappointed to eventually be bowled playing round a straight ball. This brought Bertie Duncan to the crease at 138 for 6 and I knew that we didn’t need to get many more runs to be in control of the game. Bertie has played the last two matches in T2 and has returned with increased confidence following two good innings. He played a superb pull shot early in his innings and his 25 runs off 23 balls were absolutely crucial in supporting Thistlethwayte as he approached his individual century. Harry Thistlethwayte’s innings today was most impressive and it was a shame that with a couple of overs to go he was out for 92 off just 81 balls. He scored runs all round the wicket, milking the easy singles offered when the field spread but also punishing the poor balls and showing creativity and confidence in hitting the ball to unguarded areas behind the wicket. Thistlethwayte and Duncan had put on 53 runs off 44 balls, rotating the strike well, running singles aggressively with excellent calling and communication. A couple of cameos from Fred Corbett and Tom Lytle brought the innings to a close on a good total of 203 for 8 after 35 overs.
Chasing over two hundred is a formidable challenge for U14 players even on a beautiful wicket with some short boundaries. The Eton opening attack bowled with reasonable control even though there was minimal swing and when Christian beat the Bradfield opener Khanna for pace in his first over hitting the top of middle stump, Eton had made the positive start they had wished. Brabham had only returned from a family event in Australia late the previous evening but he followed up his impressive opening spell earlier in the afternoon with some confident batting. He survived a couple of chances when outside edges carried to the slips and keeper but it wasn’t a surprise when he finally fell caught behind by Lytle off Christian who was now comfortably into his rhythm and bowling with some pace and venom even on a placid pitch. Bradfield put on their biggest partnership of the innings but were not imposing themselves and were getting further behind on the run rate. Eton’s control increased when our two slower bowlers came on. Charlie Lyons has been a revelation with his bowling in recent weeks and his rather old-fashioned virtues of getting in close to the stumps and bowling with impressive control of length and line have made him a handful for many batsmen this season and the Bradfield boys found him impossible to get away. Lyons finished this innings with impressive figures of 6 overs, 3 maidens, 2 wickets for just 6 runs. Bertie Duncan executed an impressive run out with a strong accurate throw and at the other end Thistlethwayte was probing away. When he forced the left hander opener Patel to nick one to the keeper, it was clear that the result of this game was no longer in doubt. Thistlethwayte then bowled two of the middle order and when Christian came back on to mop up the tail, the only real question was whether he could take the 5 wickets needed for an invitation to the Centurions’ dinner next week. In the end he fell one short but his bowling figures of 6-1-14-4 was a splendid effort and his best bowling display of the season so far.
I don’t normally award a man of the match as cricket is much more of a team game than many realise. The strength of the current T1 side is certainly to be found in their spirit, concentration and energy they can put into performances. Yesterday I noticed Harry Livingstone running in from fine leg to back up the keeper and saw some great work from Fred Corbett in between overs running over to encourage bowlers when things were not going so well. These are contributions that can easily go unrecognised yet are absolutely crucial in a successful side. But yesterday was so clearly Thistlethwayte’s match that it would be churlish not to give him the additional accolade of “man of the match” in this final. He scored 92 runs off 81 balls when we were struggling in the first innings and then followed up with three wickets in the second innings to close the game out. My final comment of this report must be to congratulate Charlie Lyons on his captaining of the side. There are difficult decisions to be made as captain but Charlie is getting more and more of these correct and his charismatic leadership of the team has been one of the highlights of the season.